Small size, maximum fun

EVART TWP. — When driving south of Evart, one might stop to view a pasture with some of the cutest and shortest animals found on the Cushman farm. But don’t call them ponies.

Commonly mistaken as such, miniature horses are a registered horse breed and determined by their height, which is typically less than 38 inches. Baby minis can weigh about 30 pounds and grow to a few hundred as adults.

The animals are calm, docile, playful, easy to maintain, relatively inexpensive and easily trained.

They also are used as carriage horses, therapy animals and as assistant animals for people with disabilities.

Toby, Willow, Wildcat, Amos, Ladybug and a newborn filly make up the current group of miniature horses, but the Cushmans just purchased two more from Ft. Wayne, Ind., and may even have another filly or colt on the way.

“We just enjoy it,” Vicki Cushman said. “It’s fun to have something to come home to and another reason for the grandkids to come over.”

Cushman, who was born and raised on the property, always has had horses in her life and a fondness that has never disappeared. Ten years ago, she began raising miniature horses because of the need for an animal to pull a carriage for a number of local events. The adventure is still going strong and the horses have become a hit with the younger generation as well.

“These little guys are great with the grandkids. They love them,” she added. “The best part is watching the kids run out into the field and playing with the horses.”

Cushman, a regular at the Osceola County 4H-FFA Fair, has the desire to begin a project to take miniature horses to the fair for children who are not able to have a horse. The initiative would provide the opportunity for children to become accustomed to and comfortable with taking care of a horse without the size and potential dangers of being around a horse of standard size.

“I think it would be a good experience,” Cushman said. “You can do so much more with them.”

The miniatures also could be used for showmanship competitions and entertainment events such as costume contests at the fair, she added.

Cushman’s daughter, Kelly Hubbard, has developed a love for the younger horses, Amos and Ladybug, who she affectionately calls Bernice.

“They’re so much more fun than the big horses,” Hubbard said. “You still have to work with them every day, but they’re so sweet.”

Aside from miniature horses, the Cushmans have draft horses, one goat, two dogs and chickens. They also have owned two Clydesdale horses that they purchased from the Budweiser Stables in St. Louis that retired from pulling beer wagons.